Lacking Oversight, Agencies Self-Police Their Own Aircraft Safety Standards

December 2, 2011

Government agencies that fly their own aircraft also must oversee their own safety standards -- a situation that has some federal and local officials worried.

U.S. Coast Guard search-and-rescue helicopters, the Forest Service's fleet for combating wildfires and NASA aircraft that train astronauts, for instance, are not subject to the oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration.

"We have to provide our own oversight," Texas Department of Public Safety Captain Tim Ochsner said Wednesday at a National Transportation Safety Board forum attended by representatives from federal, state and local service branches. "If we don't do that, no one's going to do it for us."

NTSB has investigated more than 300 public aircraft accidents in the past decade, including 120 deaths and 160 injuries. Every year more than 2,000 aircraft are operated under public status and are flown for more than 1 million hours, according to the board's website. 

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